by Gus Lagman, BusinessWorld, December 14, 2010
Corruption thrives in this country because we do not punish the criminals. Most of us know how corrupt officials get away with their thievery, yet we either ignore the existence of these schemes, or we accept them as a way of life. Let me illustrate the point that we do know how they do it.
If I were a former head of state and I’m guilty of criminal acts, what would I do towards the end of my term and immediately after, in order to ward off efforts to prosecute me? Here are some of the many things that I could, and must do.
- While still in office, I would appoint an Ombudsman who I’m certain would follow my bidding, no matter how difficult, shameful, and illogical the tasks might be. Apart from bribing him/her with a large sum of money, I would also get a dossier that could legally implicate him/her should he/she try to turn against me. Maybe I’d video him/her accepting money from my representative. These would assure me that he/she would think of all possible ways to kill attempts to bring legal cases against me, my family, and even subordinates who could link me to the criminal acts they committed under my instructions.
- I would appoint Supreme Court justices who, like the Ombudsman, would follow my bidding, no matter how difficult, shameful, and illogical the tasks might be. All the other conditions in item 1 above would also apply here. And since there are 15 justices in the SC, I would have a buffer of 7; so it wouldn’t matter too much if some of them renege on our agreement, or if 7 of them turn out to be so independent-minded that they would decide according to their conscience.
- I would seek a public office so I wouldn’t be an easy target for those who want to prosecute me. That would also make it easier for me to maintain a relationship with politicians I could use to shield me from my attackers. I would also need a sufficient number of legislators under my thumb to ensure that my Ombudsman and my justices are not impeached.
- It is extremely important that I be able to deflect the focus of the new government on other activities, other problems, instead of on prosecuting me. I would therefore plant land mines on every government office within my reach through midnight appointments with attached fixed terms. Not only would I have my people manning critical positions in those agencies, I would also make it difficult for the new government appointees to succeed. The attention of the public would therefore be on those failures rather than on me.
- I would take advantage of every opportunity to create a crisis situation for the new government. I would make mountains out of molehills. (A very good example is the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” issue. That was nothing but about a controversial logo, a slogan. But as we’ve seen, it gained almost as much prominence as truly odious issues like the fertilizer scam and the NBN-ZTE scandal. It was only Usec. Enteng Romano’s resignation that killed the issue. Otherwise, it might even have gone as far as its natural consequence – a congressional investigation!) “Fanning” crisis situations to propagate them and make them larger than they are is a lot easier these days because aside from the traditional media, I could also now make maximum use of the new media, like “social networking” (Internet) facilities.
- When there are no such opportunities available, I could always create one. I could stage a kidnapping, a hostage situation, a terrorist attack, etc.
- I would ask allies among business groups and media to constantly say that we should not be vindictive and instead concentrate on growing the economy. I would get them to say that oft-used statement, “Let’s just move on!”
- For good measure, I would use the religious community as well. I would ask my allies among the bishops to fight tooth-and-nail against whatever religion controversies might be in the news. For example, if the current leadership is pro-family planning, then I would get my allies to vehemently fight the RH bill. Anything to keep the new government busy while keeping me out of the news. If the leadership is pro-divorce, then I would get my allies in the clergy to fight it to the hilt.
- I would of course be very quiet myself and use my stooges who are still in government to front for me and pick up the fight for me.
- Before the end of my term, as some kind of insurance, I would already make asylum arrangements with a country with no extradition treaties with the Philippines. Perhaps, I would make investments in that country to gain favor from that country’s leaders. I could always launder the money through my businessmen-friends.
These schemes would obviously cost a lot of money to execute. But if I have stolen enough when I was head of state, then allocating a fund of say, P5 billion for these shouldn’t be too big a problem.
What I have enumerated is my personal list. I urge the readers to feel free to add to this list. It is my hope that this exercise would make us wiser in interpreting events that figure prominently in the news. And it is also my hope that our focus in seeing to the prosecution of plunderers would not be deflected by newsy, but less important issues.
Republished with permission from Mr. Lagman.